There are so many things that contribute to sleep, and I'm not talking about pharmaceuticals here. Aside from lowering stress, avoiding screens before bed and creating healthy sleep habits, are there any safe, natural herbs to help calm the nervous system or even induce sleep? Well, I can answer that with a resounding yes, and they are neither addictive nor come with a long list of side effects. First thing, as an herbalist it is my job to not only introduce you to herbs that may be effective, but also ways in which to use them best. But let’s just begin with the herbs themselves.
The herbs we want to focus on are referred to as nervines, or herbs that tone and support the nervous system. When our nervous system is supported, we can more easily access our rest and digest state where both our minds and our bodies can function calmly and where deep sleep is more easily found. These herbs include Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Catnip, Skullcap and Oats. Yes, Oats as in porridge… you can eat your medicine and it can be delicious! These are all herbs that can calm digestion, relieve inflammation and soothe irritable or run down nerves. They can be taken any time of day, and preferably multiple times during the day when experiencing stress.
There are also a couple of nervines that are more sleep specific and sedative like Valerian
which have traditionally been used together in sleep blends for many years. Both of these herbs are very effective at calming nervousness and anxiety, but Valerian specifically does this by increasing the levels of GABA in the brain which quiet the neurons in the central nervous system. A little quieting of the brain when the light goes off sure helps! I don’t recommend taking more than a small amount of Hops/Valarian combo during the day as it can be sedating, but brewing up a pot of this tea in the evening is quite effective! If you don’t want to be consuming much liquid before bed, you can find tincture blends such as the Deep Sleep Elixir
This blend is paired with a few other nervines for all around nervous system and digestive support. If preferring a tea, I would look for a blend containing (but not exclusive to) Valerian and Hops, as they are quite pungent on their own! If you don't want something quite so strong or are looking for something that is safe for children, you can opt for a blend of chamomile, lemon balm and catnip as they calm anxiety, restlessness and nervous debility while being gentle and non-sedative. This is often enough to help bring calm and sleep for children and those with mild sleep difficulties. This blend is also available as a Gentle Sleep Glycerite
in my shop. A glycerite is an herbal extraction made with glycerine rather than alcohol so it is sweet and this blend is very delicious, with added hibiscus and lavender.
As for other applications of these herbs, you can try infused honeys like our Chamomile Electuary
, body oils like our Dream Seer Body Oil
or bath salts among others! Our body actually absorbs herbs just as well through our skin as when taken internally! This doesn’t work as well for some conditions, but for the nervous system it’s very effective. If you like baths, try brewing up a strong pot of chamomile tea, reserve a cup for drinking (before it get’s too strong and bitter) and pour the rest in your bath. Body oiling not only gets those herbs in you but massage engages your rest and digest state even more. Pair this with your Deep Sleep Elixir and other healthy bedtime habits and you’re well supported for a wonderful sleep.
If you're looking for how to create healthy sleep habits for yourself or your family beyond herbs, please look into hiring a sleep consultant. They are an amazing resource and one I can vouch for personally. I had a wonderful chat with Jessica White Sleep Solutions
on my IG live recently, check it out
! Also I've spoken at length with Catherine Wright at Recoop Care
. Both of these women are incredible at what they do and can provide you with step by step customized plans and accountability.
Catherine from Recoop Care had this to say!
Hi folks. Well, I can honestly say there has never been a better time to love-up our sleep. These topsy turvy times are inviting us to rest up so we can build resilience - emotionally, and physically. We are being invited to tend to ourselves and our families in the most basic ways.
For anyone out there struggling with sleep, or looking to support their little ones around sleep learning, I’m here to help. I recently expanded my family sleep practice (of 8 years), to include teens and adults. My approach to baby, toddler and adult sleep is integrative and holistic, meaning I don’t use a singular approach but work with each family and individual, where they are at. I use sleep science and evidence-based approaches in addition to my training in maternal mental health, infant and toddler mental health and attachment, and work as a certified birth doula. On a personal note I have also worked through some of my own sleep challenges.
The folks I work with often know what they ‘should’ do to sleep better but struggle to put the pieces of the puzzle together, be consistent, or let go of stubborn old habits to welcome sustainable change. Or, they have stopped believing that their baby or toddler will ever sleep, or that they themselves will ever be able to sleep well again. My mission is to help everyone feel confident about their sleep as a simple and natural way to care for themselves, and their families.
I offer ongoing Baby Sleep Foundations classes for new parents, and sleep courses for adults, in addition to Individualized support for adults and families. To learn more visit www.recoop.care or connect with me by email or phone. You can also find me on insta @recoop.care.
Sleep well my lovelies.